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It is a testament to not only the heft of Dior’s business but also a rare marriage of commerce and creativity that, a month before the Dior Men show staged in Miami on Tuesday night, the designer Kim Jones could stand in Dior’s showrooms near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and talk through the collection with assembled journalists. Previews with fashion houses, if they happen at all, are usually frenzied interlocutions 24 hours or less before the clothes hit any stage. Not so with Jones: the collection was competed, the next one is nearly done, and already the Spring/Summer 2021 clothes he’ll be showing in June 2020 are under discussion, contemplation and even creation. The mind boggles at that schedule, but Jones takes it in his stride.
He also took exporting his show to America for the first time in his stride. It was presented on the eve of Art Basel and in a location close by the new, 52,000 square foot campus of the Rubell Museum, filled with a multibillion-dollar collection of contemporary works by Richard Prince, Jeff Koons and Cindy Sherman, among many many others. Art is important for fashion, and the coupling of the two is becoming increasingly inextricable. Cross-pollination occurs on arty handbags bearing luxuriously embossed signatures (both Prince and Koons have created bags for Louis Vuitton, for example), and in fashion-branded museums such as the Fondation Louis Vuitton, inaugurated in 2006 and sponsored by Dior’s parent conglomerate LVMH.
At Dior, however, there’s a bit more history to the idea. “Dior was a gallerist before he became a couturier,” Jones reminds me — indeed, he was an early supporter of Salvador Dalí and Giorgio de Chirico some 20 years before he founded his couture house. In a very different vein, in 1955 — and already world-famous — Dior collaborated with Cadillac, “one of the biggest, most glamorous brands of that era,” Jones reasoned, showing off a few vintage advertising images of impossibly glamorous couture-clad woman in Dior’s salons, juxtaposed with Cadillacs in complementary shades. If Dior was once dubbed the General Motors of fashion, for its pioneering of the idea of licensing and quick diversification into multiple fields with scant relationship to haute couture, Jones was suggesting that today it’s closer to Cadillac, specifically. And that collaboration suggested coming to America in the first place, also inspiring a new limited-edition iteration of Jones’ hit men’s saddlebag in metal enamelled like a car chassis and underscoring a collaboration with Jordan Brand to create a new trainer, the Air Dior. High meets low, couture en masse, a Swoosh executed in the Dior Oblique embroidery, a logo inside a logo.
You can practically already hear cash registers chiming — and although figures are never broken out for its individual brands, in the third quarter, LVMH revenue was up 11% organically, with fashion and leather goods contributing an upswing of 18% in the first nine months of 2019. Dior’s performance was termed “remarkable.” Notably, there are plenty of accessories in Dior’s mens shows now, a category under-explored prior to Jones. This time, he also worked with Shawn Stüssy, founder of the skate wear brand (he’s no longer directly involved, having sold his stake in 1996) who devised bold, graffiti-tag graphics. Jones like to think of him as an artist: rather than collaborating with a fine artist in the traditional sense of the term, as he had for his first five collections, Jones thought further afield.
That’s a hefty backstory to a collection: in the flesh, presented in a wave of scribbled graffiti reiterating the name “Dior”, the clothes felt effortless, energetic, colour-filled, uncomplicated. Jones’ Spring/Summer 2020 collection was an exercise in surgical precision — there were even a few white lab coats included, and it felt like the apotheosis of a polished, tailoring-anchored aesthetic he’s been exploring since he joined the couture house at the start of last year. By contrast, this collection eased up, let loose, untucked the shirts, embracing the ideology of American sportswear — even if it wound up pinned with a corsage of handmade flowers and topped with a Stephen Jones beret.
This isn’t a repositioning of Dior, or its menswear, which is known for slick, superlatively constructed suiting — Jones showed plenty of that, in slightly iridescent fabrics, tropical-weight mohairs and Miami retiree colours of pale blue and sunburnt peach — but it does naturally reflect Jones’ own love of sportswear and streetwear, both in his own wardrobes and his design back-catalogue (he is the man who brought Supreme to Louis Vuitton, after all). It is also a considered iteration of a growth area for fashion. According to McKinsey & Company’s recently released 2020 “State of Fashion” report, while the entire fashion industry is predicted to shrink 3-4% next annum, sportswear predicts a growth rate of 6-7%, the highest across various categories including apparel, footwear and accessories. Much hypothesised, mythologised and even mocked-up on Internet sneakerhead blogs and forums since he began at Dior, those Air Dior kicks may have enough of an impact to shift that needle — the Cadillac of the 2020s.
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